Do Europeans get Migraines?

I had my first migraine attack September 2013. The day before the attack, I started experiencing an aura in my left eye near the end of the day. I had never experienced a migraine before so I didn't recognize this as an early sign. I had a glass of red wine that night and went to bed oblivious to what tomorrow would bring. The next day, we were on our morning run when the aura started again and then suddenly my vision went completely blurry. I could barely see my own hands and certainly nothing on the street. Thank goodness I was with Keith, because I'm not sure how I would have gotten home. Of course in my moment of panic, my first thought was a heart attack or blindness. We got home, and Keith called my eye doctor to schedule an appointment. Fortunately, they knew the symptoms of a migraine attack and told us to schedule a doctor's appointment.

I now have some prescription migraine pills to take at the first sign of a migraine attack. I have been fortunate in that over the past eight months, I've only taken five pills. I know others have it far worse than me and I feel horribly for anyone that experiences these on a regular basis. Last weekend I didn't blog because I had my worst migraine attack yet. On Friday morning, I was logging into my work email and finishing a phone call with my mom, when my vision went completely blurry again. I hadn't even gotten the typical aura in advance to warn me. I now know the approximate dates of when I'm most susceptible to migraines, so I don't drink alcohol during that time frame, avoid chocolate, and drink a lot of water. I haven't had enough migraines yet to pin down the exact triggers, so this was a good reminder to start a "migraine journal". On Sunday, I noted everything I ate or drank, how much sleep I got, and how stressed I was leading up to the migraine so I can try to avoid future triggers.

Thankfully my sister was in town visiting me last weekend, so she brought me my migraine pills and drove me home. I took a 3-hour nap (I NEVER nap!) then took it pretty easy the rest of the day. My head ached the entire 3-day weekend and I avoided loud noises, direct sunlight and overhead lights, spicy food and MSG, and got a lot more sleep than typical. The reason this was my worst migraine attack to date was because of what happened to me on Saturday. Again, I was experiencing no aura and felt slightly better than Friday, so I decided to drive myself to an afternoon spa appointment. Halfway on my drive there, stopped at a red light on another phone call, my vision went completely blurry again. It was one of the most frightening moments of my life. I couldn't see in front of me, my left eye was experiencing double vision, and I was at a very busy intersection in downtown Austin. I managed to pull into a hotel parking lot and sat in the airport / hotel van lane until my vision corrected after about fifteen minutes. I planned to call a friend to pick me up, but unfortunately got kicked out of the parking spot and wound up taking back roads all the way home, with absolute silence in the car other than my deep breathing. 

If you've never experienced a migraine attack then you may think I'm being overly dramatic. I promise I'm not. They completely wipe you out and are pretty frightening, especially in the early days when you're still figuring out how to live with them and how to avoid triggering future attacks. I also realize that some of you reading this may experience far worse migraines than I currently have, and if so, I'm so deeply sorry. They are the worst. After this rough weekend, I couldn't help but acknowledge how ironic it is that my "word of the year" is peace. Stress is one of the main causes of migraines.

Here is my question that ties back to my title, do Europeans have to take prescription migraine pills? Several European countries limit their work hours, offer weeks (and weeks) of vacation time, and France even recently banned checking work emails during non-work hours. So do all those extra perks for European workers mean they are less stressed than us and experiencing less migraines, or are they still stressed just working less hours? I've spent the past few years trying to convince Keith we should live abroad for 1 - 2 years at some point, so now I'm adding the potential for lower stress as an additional reason. I have now gone almost four weeks without social media, news or personal blogs (other than mine) and I have felt a slight difference. Clearly it's not enough quite yet. I've been trying to keep up my morning core exercises ritual and gratitude journal, though I could certainly do better. I'm hopeful getting into a more regular practice with both those, perhaps also maintaining the social media / news / blog cleanse, will help these migraine attacks not become a more regular part of my life.

At the first sign of an aura, I always take a prescription migraine pill and drink a Mexican coca-cola (based on my doctor's advice). If you or someone you know experiences migraines, what are some common triggers you recommend avoiding or tricks you use to help it not get worse? And if you know any Europeans, please ask them about their stress levels so I can add a few more reasons to move abroad onto my argument pile.